Jennie Ebeling is associate professor of archaeology at the University of Evansville in Indiana and co-directed the Jezreel Expedition with Norma Franklin 2012-2018. A former Fulbright fellow, she has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Lady Davis Trust to support research in Israel and Jordan and was appointed Annual Professor of the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem in 2015-16. Ebeling served as Vice President (Membership) of ASOR and was an ASOR Trustee for ten years; in 2013 she was awarded the Charles U. Harris Service Award in recognition of her long-term service to ASOR. Her research interests include ancient food and drink technology, women in Canaan and ancient Israel, and religion and cult in the Bronze and Iron Age Levant, and her publications include Women’s Lives in Biblical Times (2010) and the edited volumes In Pursuit of Visibility: Essays in Archaeology, Ethnography, and Text in Honor of Beth Alpert Nakhai (2022) with L. Mazow, The Woman in the Pith Helmet: A Tribute to Archaeologist Norma Franklin (2020) with P. Guillaume, The Old Testament in Archaeology and History (2017) with J.E. Wright, M. Elliott, and P.V.M. Flesher, Household Archaeology in Ancient Israel and Beyond (2011) with A. Yasur-Landau and L. Mazow, and New Approaches to Old Stones: Recent Studies of Ground Stone Artifacts (2008) with Y.M. Rowan. She produced several films based on her ethnographic research of traditional bread ovens in Jordan; one is on permanent exhibit in the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv. Ebeling teaches a variety of courses in Near Eastern archaeology at the University of Evansville and her excellence in undergraduate teaching was recognized with the Dean’s Teaching Award (2011) and Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award (2014).
Bible & Archaeology Fest XXVI, November 17 – 19, 2023
Bread on God’s Table: Lechem Hapanim (Bread of the Presence) in Context
Lechem Hapanim (“bread of the presence” or “showbread”) was the only food on continual display before YHWH, Israel’s national god, in the Tabernacle and the Jerusalem temple. Each week, priests were commanded to bake twelve loaves of bread and arrange them on a golden table in YHWH’s presence to the right of the entrance to the Holy of Holies, the most sacred part of the temple. While other food and drink brought to the temple as offerings were burned, the priests were compelled to eat the week-old bread every Sabbath before replacing it with fresh loaves. In this presentation, I will contextualize this practice through an examination of feasting scenes in the art of Israel’s neighbors that depict stacks of bread presented on tables before gods, rulers, and others. I will also compare the placement of bread loaves before YHWH to the baking of cakes for the Queen of Heaven and the arranging of a table for Gad described by Jeremiah and Isaiah. Recognizing the importance of bread and other baked goods in ancient Israelite culture helps us understand the motivation and meaning behind the weekly practice of placing twelve fresh loaves of bread before YHWH in His house.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XXIV, October 16 – 17, 2021
Archaeology in a Pandemic: Reflections on Lost Opportunities and Silver Linings
In this presentation, I will describe some of the challenges faced by archaeologists during the COVID-19 pandemic and some unexpected silver linings. While some archaeological excavations were able to operate at reduced sizes and under new guidelines in 2020-2021, most dig directors, researchers, and students based in North American have been unable to participate in field projects in Israel since 2019. According to a July 2020 article in the Jerusalem Post, Head of the Archaeological Division of the Israel Antiquities Authority Gideon Avni estimated that 50 excavations with some 2,000 participants from overseas were to take part in the 2020 summer dig season; the cancellation of most of these projects led to what he called “the collapse of the system” with far-reaching implications for archaeology in Israel. Although this comment highlights the important roles foreign researchers and students play in archaeological projects in Israel, it overlooks the important independent and collaborative work out of the field that my colleagues and I were able to accomplish during this challenging period. In addition to providing a brief overview of the state of archaeological fieldwork in Israel in 2020-2021, I will discuss some positive developments that will hopefully benefit the field in the years to come.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XXIII, October 24 – 25, 2020
Expectation vs. Reality: Great Fails in Biblical Archaeology
Public perception of what biblical archaeology can and cannot do has changed very little since the early days of American biblical archaeology, when W.F. Albright and others aimed to discover material evidence of biblical figures and events in order to demonstrate the historical reliability of the Hebrew Bible. W.G. Dever and other scholars have shown that these efforts were largely failures. Although academic archaeologists working in Israel today focus on reconstructing the lives of ancient peoples using anthropological and scientific approaches, the American public, both religious and secular, can’t get enough of sensational “discoveries” involving the historicity of biblical figures (King David) and events (the emergence of the Israelite monarchy). In this lecture, I will describe how American archaeologists working in Israel exploit the naïve popular perception of biblical archaeology and, in doing so, fail to educate a fascinated public audience about the state-of-the-art in archaeology in Israel.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XXII, November 22 – 24, 2019
Visitor Experiences at Jezreel: Highlights from the Nineteenth Century and Today
Although the location of biblical Jezreel, the site of Naboth’s vineyard and Ahab and Jezebel’s palace, was known through the medieval period, it was “lost” to the west until the arrival of American and European explorers to Palestine in the early nineteenth century. Around the time the ‘father of biblical geography,’ the American cleric Edward Robinson, and with Eli Smith identified the Ottoman village of Zarin with Jezreel in their book Biblical Researches in Palestine (1841), tourism opened up and scores of pilgrims and other travelers visited the site and recorded what they saw in hundreds of books and articles. Although many described the village and its inhabitants in derogatory and racist ways and noted the lack of visible ancient remains, they were impressed by the magnificent landscape and the setting for the dramatic and bloody accounts in 1 Kings 21 and 2 Kings 9. Today, Jezreel is not a particularly popular destination for tourists from abroad; unlike nearby Megiddo and Bet Shean, which are national parks with guards, visitors’ centers, and signed paths, Jezreel lies relatively unprotected and lacks even basic tourist facilities. The relatively few foreigners who visit are attracted to Jezreel because of its connection to biblical people and events, but their experiences are influenced by the relatively poor conditions at the site. In this lecture, I will present some nineteenth century travelers’ experiences at Jezreel and compare them to those of travelers today.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XXI, November 16 – 18, 2018
A History of Women in Biblical Archaeology
During its 150-year history, women have made important contributions to Biblical archaeology. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Palestinian women and girls made up a substantial part of the labor force at archaeological digs in Palestine. Although a few western women served on dig staff during the “Golden Age of Biblical Archaeology” between WWI and WWII, directors’ wives and other female family members were more likely to be found on archaeological projects. Starting with the great British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon’s work at Jericho in the 1950s, women played more prominent roles in excavations in Israel and Jordan, although only a few – most notably Israeli archaeologists Ruth Amiran, Trude Dothan and Claire Epstein – directed or co-directed excavations and surveys before the 1970s. In the decades since, many women have contributed to archaeological projects as volunteers, students, specialists, and staff members, but relatively few currently direct or co-direct excavations in Israel. In addition to cultural factors and the challenges women face in academia generally, women’s representation in field archaeology at the highest level is hindered by the sponsorship of many projects by conservative universities and organizations. This lecture will present the history of women in Biblical archaeology and suggest ways to improve women’s representation in the field going forward.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XIX, November 18 – 20, 2016
Making Cakes for the Queen of Heaven: Women, Food, and Ritual in Ancient Israel
The writers of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament condemned certain religious practices that took place outside of the Jerusalem Temple and/or were performed in the worship of deities other than Yahweh. For example, Jeremiah (7:18, 44:17-25) rails against women making cakes for the Queen of Heaven in a ritual that involved the whole family, and women are described weaving garments for Asherah in the Jerusalem Temple in 2 Kings 23:7 and weeping for Tammuz in Ezekiel 8:14. Although we have no extra-biblical evidence for the actual activities that took place in the Jerusalem Temple, more than one-hundred temples, shrines, and other cultic spaces have been found at Iron Age (ca. 1200-586 BCE) sites in Israel and nearly all of them contain evidence for preparing and/or consuming food and drink. Since women are believed to have been the primary cooks and bakers in biblical times, it is likely that they prepared food offerings for the deities worshipped throughout Israel and Judah. In this presentation, I will discuss the biblical and archaeological evidence for food and drink offerings to Yahweh and other deities and suggest that women were responsible for feeding the gods as well as their families.
St. Olaf College, July 24 – July 30, 2016
Life in Ancient Israel: In Search of the 99%
This seminar is an exploration of the everyday lives of the men, women, and children who comprised 99% of the population of ancient Israel. Using the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and contemporary extra-Biblical texts, archaeological remains, art, and ethnographic sources, we will reconstruct lifecycle events, customs, and daily life activities during the Iron Age (ca. 1200-586 BCE) in Israel and Judah. Participants will gain new understandings and insights into the lives of those unnamed individuals – the vast majority of the Israelite population – about whom the Biblical writers were largely silent.
Lecture 1: Sources for Understanding Life in Ancient Israel
This program begins with an overview of the available sources for reconstructing daily life in ancient Israel, including Biblical and extra-Biblical texts, archaeological remains from Iron Age (ca. 1200-586 BCE) sites in the southern Levant, art and iconography from Israel, Judah, and their neighbors, and ethnographic sources from the Middle East.
Lecture 2: The Ancient Israelite Family and Household
What was the structure of an ancient Israelite family, and what did their living spaces look like? This lecture includes a discussion of the Biblical bet ‘av, or extended family household, gender roles in ancient Israelite society, and the typical layout and contents of the so-called “four-room house” known from Iron Age sites in Israel and Judah.
Lecture 3: From Cradle to Grave: Lifecycle Events
Then as now, the lives of ancient people were marked with major watershed events. Here we examine the main lifecycle events of ancient Israelites – birth, coming of age, marriage, and death – as well as the celebrations and other activities that surrounded them in ancient Israel.
Lecture 4: The Ancient Israelite Diet
Food – both its procurement and preparation – was an integral facet of daily life in ancient Israel. Following a discussion of agriculture and animal husbandry, this lecture examines the staple foods in the Israelite diet and their methods of preparation with a focus on bread/beer, grapes/wine, and olives/olive oil.
Lecture 5: Ceramics, Textiles, and other Household Arts
Recent years have seen an increase in the study of the ancient household production of domestic materials, referred to as “household arts.” This has allowed for a greater understanding of and insight into the domestic life of ancient people. This lecture investigates evidence of ceramic vessel production, spinning and weaving, basketry, hide working, and other arts practiced by members of the Israelite household, offering new insights into their domestic life.
Lecture 6: Clothing, Jewelry, and Cosmetics
Clothing and items of personal adornment have been an important part of culture and identity for millennia. In this lecture, we focus on what we know of the typical Israelite dress for men, women, and children as well jewelry/amulets made of gold, silver, and semi-precious stones and cosmetics used for beauty and protection.
Lecture 7: Literacy, Education, and Leadership
In this lecture we will consider the evidence for literacy among the majority of the Israelite population, the education that boys and girls received from their parents, as well as leadership roles held by men and women in the household and local community.
Lecture 8: Siege and War
During much of the Iron Age, Israel and Judah were threatened by their neighbors and under either direct or indirect control by the Assyrians and Babylonians. Here we examine how the Israelites prepared for war at home and abroad.
Lecture 9: Religion and Worship in the Household and Local Community
Religion was an integral part of both domestic and public life in ancient Israel. This presentation examines evidence for the worship of various deities within the household context and local shrines, including altars, figurines, and other specialized equipment, and reconstructs some of the cultic activities that took place in these spaces.
Lecture 10: Death, Burial, and the Mortuary Cult
The end of the lifecycle and the rituals and beliefs surrounding are an integral part of a community’s identity, and archaeological evidence has taught us a great deal about such practices in the ancient communities of Israel and Judah. This final lecture examines the rituals that accompanied burial in these nations, as well as the characteristics of the typical Iron Age family tombs and evidence for ancestor veneration.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XVIII, November 20 – 22, 2015
Naboth’s Vineyard and the Staff of Life: Wine, Bread, and Agricultural Plenty in Ancient Jezreel
Strategically located along the international highway the Via Maris on the edge of the fertile, well-watered agricultural land of Israel’s Jezreel Valley, Jezreel provided an attractive place for human settlement from early times. Tel Jezreel, with its fortified enclosure dating to the Iron Age and the period of Ahab and Jezebel, was excavated in the 1990s, while a newly-discovered lower tel next to the Spring of Jezreel is the focus of the current Jezreel Expedition directed by Jennie Ebeling and Norma Franklin. In 2012, an intensive foot survey supplemented by the results of a LiDAR aerial laser scan revealed dozens of agricultural installations cut into the limestone bedrock, including an impressive winery with a treading floor, vats, and numerous rock-cut mortars that the team excavated in 2013. This discovery not only supports our understanding of the Jezreel Valley as the breadbasket of Israel; it also provides context for the story of Naboth’s vineyard in 1 Kings 21. In this presentation, I will illustrate the agricultural plenty of Jezreel in antiquity and today and describe the technology used to produce two of the staple foods in the ancient Israelite diet – wine and bread – using archaeological, historical, and ethnographic sources.